October 23, 2012, 11:51 AM

International sales are less of a stretch for online retailers

Border-hopping services give e-retailers a chance to sell everywhere.

Lead Photo

New services are making it easier for U.S. retailers, and their overseas counterparts, to use the web to expand international sales even more, making it matter a little less everyday where home base is.

For example, Toys ‘R’ Us last month began working with international e-commerce and delivery services vendor i-parcel to sell to online consumers in 68 countries in Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and the Americas. McKeon Products Inc., a manufacturer based in Warren, MI, in May began selling its Mack’s brand of earplugs to Chinese consumers through Tmall, a marketplace operated by China’s Alibaba Group, by leveraging a new service from vendor Export Now.

Jennifer True, international sales director for McKeon Products, says the manufacturer already sells hundreds of units through Tmall each month, and that sales are increasing. True says she began exploring how she could sell Mack’s earplugs to China after Chinese consumers began asking True via e-mail how they could get them. Export Now, a vendor with dual headquarters in Akron, OH, and Shanghai, helped the manufacturer respond to that demand.

To get its goods to China, Mack’s sends its products to an Export Now facility in Long Beach, CA, where they are consolidated with products from other client retailers and shipped via ocean freight to Export Now’s warehouse in China. Export Now ships Mack’s items to Chinese consumers as they are ordered. Delivery typically takes two days for a minimal shipping fee of around 50 cents, says Frank Lavin, CEO of the 2-year-old Export Now.

The vendor also handles customer service inquiries on behalf of McKeon Products, something True says the company could not do on its own, and which Lavin says is particularly important to Chinese consumers. He says Chinese consumers require more service and assurance than their Western counterparts, and that more than half of the orders his company processes via Tmall include a customer inquiry.

Lavin tells his clients to expect their Tmall sales to total 10-25% of their U.S. revenue within two years. “You’ve got this entire generation of wealthy Chinese consumers,” Lavin says. “These consumers increasingly want sophisticated cool stuff. They want the iPods and the Levi Jeans. And brands can command a premium.”

For much more about about global opportunities for e-retailers, read the upcoming November issue of Internet Retailer magazine


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